the five second rule

I’m half way through Mark’s gospel at the moment, working on the liturgy collection that we’re pulling together for prison chaplains. I’m just working on the conversation between Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:24ff, which is a great story.

It’s one of those passages that is interpreted by the pre-suppositions we bring to it:
– if we think that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said at the beginning of the conversation, then the story is about persistence; asking for justice.

– if we think there’s a chance Jesus got it very wrong at the beginning of the conversation, then the story becomes about something else – the broadening of the mission of God, perhaps; i like the idea that it was about Jesus beginning to recognise that he was tapped into something that could change the world… that this whole section of Mark is as much about Jesus working out who he was, as it was about the disciples doing likewise. And that was happening by being in conversations with ‘the other’… not by the conversations with those who agreed with him, or those who worshipped him.

I also like the idea that the story fits into the whole Markan theme about humanising the de-humanised… that the systems of power that Mark wants to overthrow are those that suck the life out of people and the world; shattering preconceptions, generalisations and labels… always making us look behind our assumptions of each other, and our judgements that diminish another’s worth… i don’t think that Mark was on about people becoming Christians, he was on about people becoming human.

i like the idea that faith begins in the conversation with the person who doesn’t fit the generalisation, and it finds its shape in the words that would give them life. I’d be part of that kind of faith. But the trouble with working outside the generalisations is that nothing is easy, everything is multifaceted. I read stories like this and think that Jesus really had it easy back there in 30 AD. Wordy. Where on earth do we begin?

imagine what else

imagine what else would change today
if we dared demand it of love.

if we didn’t stop where the rules ended,
were no longer bound by common sense
or right and wrong
or justice and fairness
and who deserves what

if we expected life for all

the five second rule

here we are
the dogs of the world
scrabbling around under the table
in search of crumbs of bread
and drops of wine
swept off laps
and brushed off table cloths

praying they are infected
with left over forgiveness
and remnants of grace

hoping that even the scraps of love
will be enough for us to live.


  1. Great post, love your thinking. Mark is my favourite Gospel with such a human Jesus who is tired, hungry, angry… rushing from place to place transforming people.

    “faith begins in the conversation… and finds its shape in the words” – this is faith that works outside the generalisations if we take the time and have the patience for the conversation.

    Thanks as always for making me think 🙂

  2. thanks danny
    oddly, I mostly agree with what i wrote in that sentence ‘faith begins in the conversation…’. something about it makes me uncomfortable, though… not sure what…

  3. Thanks again Cheryl. I always take away a deeper perspective from your writing

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